UK Policy Responses to Circular Economy Objectives

Businesses are ahead of the policy debate on circular economy in the UK, in terms of their promulgation of the ideas and their understanding of the opportunities and barriers. This is evidenced by think tank/business partnerships such as the Ellen Macarthur Foundation (EMF 2013), the RSA's Great Recovery Project (RSA 2013) and the Green Alliance's Circular Economy Task Force (2015).

In the UK, the last decade of policy developments in Europe have worked through into policy into four main ways:

• Efforts to implement the 50 % recycling target.

• Efforts to divert waste from landfill into recycling and energy from waste, particularly biodegradable wastes.

• The implementation of producer responsibility schemes for packaging, end of life vehicles, electronics and batteries.

• Discussions in the four countries comprising the UK of how to move to the 'inner loops' of re-use and remanufacturing, as well as greater product longevity.

The first three have been relatively successful, but focus on the lower parts of the waste hierarchy or the 'outer loops' of the circular economy. The last has been most evident in (1) the publication of a Resource Security Action Plan jointly by the UK Departments for Environment and for Business, and (2) the development of 'Waste Prevention Plans' by the four countries of the UK.

The Resource Security Action Plan

The UK's Resource Security Action Plan (RSAP) (Defra 2012) was a joint initiative of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to examine strategies for addressing resource security in the UK. The RSAP put more emphasis on recovery (i.e. circular approaches) than on opening up new sources of materials as a means to provide greater resource security. It also encouraged the environmental think tank Green Alliance to establish the Circular Economy Task Force as a means of engaging businesses in the solutions. The task force's first report, Resource Resilient UK, was published in July 2013 (Benton and Hazel 2013) and provided a new account of material security, as related to the environmental impacts and reputational threats of raw materials as much as to access. It also made recommendations for how UK policy could support the development of more circular approaches in pursuit of greater resource security. The report was well received by Government Ministers and by businesses.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >